Ringleader of Extortion Ring Sentenced to More Than 14 Years in Manhattan Federal Prison for Massive “Call Center” Fraud Scheme
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director in Charge New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Timothy P. Camus, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations of the United States Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”), announced today that SAHIL PATEL was sentenced to 175 months years in prison and $1 million in forfeiture for his role in organizing the U.S. side of a massive fraud and extortion ring run through various “call centers” located in India, through which PATEL and his coconspirators impersonated American law enforcement officials and threatened victims with arrest and financial penalties unless those victims made payments to avoid purported charges. PATEL pleaded guilty in January 2015 before U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who imposed the sentence today. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Sahil Patel’s elaborate scheme involved impersonating law enforcement officers and using intimidation and fear to bilk over a million dollars from hundreds of unsuspecting victims. I want to thank the FBI and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for their excellent work in this investigation.”
Assistant Director in Charge Diego Rodriguez said: “This duplicitous consumer fraud scheme preyed on the vulnerabilities of victims who were forced to pay false penalties for fear of retribution. Wreaking havoc on hundreds of innocent Americans, Patel and his co-conspirators also called into question the integrity of the federal law enforcement community by falsely portraying themselves as government officials. Today’s sentencing serves as a fine example of how the FBI and our partners are successfully combining efforts to eliminate sophisticated impersonation scams.”
Deputy Inspector General Timothy P. Camus said: “Through his ruthless criminal enterprise, Mr. Patel has inflicted harm on thousands of innocent Americans who fell victim to his impersonation scheme. Victimizing taxpayers by impersonating the IRS is a serious crime and individuals who do so will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to the Superseding Indictment, other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made at related court proceedings:
From December 2011 through the day of his arrest on December 18, 2013, PATEL participated as a leader in a sophisticated scheme to intimidate and defraud hundreds of innocent victims of hundreds of dollars apiece.
Throughout the course of the fraud, telephone call centers located in India hired English-speaking employees to place telephone calls to individuals living in the U.S. Armed with long lists of potential victims, referred to by PATEL and his co-conspirators as “lead sheets,” those India-based callers systematically placed thousands of calls to individuals in the U.S. in the hopes of intimidating the call recipients into providing a payment to the co-conspirators. In order to extort these victims, the India-based callers impersonated law enforcement officials of the FBI and IRS and threatened their victims with financial penalties and arrest in connection with fabricated financial crimes.
In order to receive funds in a manner that would mask the identity of PATEL and his co-conspirators, the ring undertook several measures to anonymize itself, including by using anonymized voice-over-Internet technology, which was subscribed under fraudulent names in order to give the appearance of being related to U.S. law enforcement agencies.
Patel and his co-conspirators also used several layers of wire transactions in order to conceal the destination and nature of the extorted payments, which totaled at least $1.2 million dollars.
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In addition to the prison sentence, PATEL, 36, of Tatamy, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
In imposing today’s sentence, Judge Hellerstein said: “The nature of this crime robbed people of their identities and their money in a way that causes people to feel they have been almost destroyed.”
If you have been targeted by this scam, you can report the incident to TIGTA at www.tigta.gov and clicking on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting tab in the upper right corner, or call the TIGTA hotline at 1-800-366-4484.
The case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew C. Adams is in charge of the prosecution.